When I was 22, I spent the summer in Indonesia. While I was there, I took a two-day bus trip across the island of Java. We started out in Jakarta and made our way over to Bali. Somewhere towards the end of our time on the bus, but before we rode the ferry that took us to the next island, we stopped in a small village for food. There wasn’t much there, just a few cinder block and blue tarp houses, a small store and a woman selling some food.
She had an assortment of tropical fruit, including small bunches of tiny bananas, sliced papaya and perfectly cut halves of pineapple. A friend and I watched as she fired up a propane stove that created a large blue ring of flame and set a wok of oil on top of it. She proceeded to fry two very small, whole chickens in the oil, without any of the trappings that we tend to think are necessary when you fry chicken. They were done fairly quickly. She wrapped them in brown paper and handed them over, along with several slabs of pineapple. It cost something like $1.50 for both of us.
Back on the bus, we ate the chicken (which was delicious and suprisingly ungreasy) and followed it with the pineapple, which was perfect. Juicy, sweet and just a little tart, I have never had pineapple taste so good again in my life. It was one of those meals that was perfect in its simplicity, even though I wouldn’t have matched plainly fried, essentially unseasoned chicken and fresh pineapple together on my own.
A couple of days ago, I bought a pineapple at Reading Terminal Market. It’s been sitting on my kitchen counter for the last couple of days, waiting for a little attention. I find that I am fickle about food preparation. Some days I crave the quiet activity of chopping, measuring and cooking, while on others, all I want to do is open the fridge, take something out and eat it. I ran out of the apartment this morning in order to make a haircut appointment, and didn’t get a chance to eat anything before I left. I returned home hungry (although with significantly cuter hair) and headed for the kitchen. My eyes landed on the pineapple and I figured now was as good a time as any to open it up.
I always dread cutting pineapple, because it’s sort of labor-intensive, but once I start doing it, I find it satisfying. I like carefully cutting off the rind, before laying it down on its side and methodically cutting little slits, so that all the remaining eyes are gone with minimal flesh loss. I enjoy the pattern that develops as you slice, so that it ends up looking like a primitive sculpture. I particularly enjoy the reward at the end, a big bowl of fresh fruit that tastes like summer, on a bus, in Indonesia